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Wealth and Isolation

Extreme wealth is something that appears to always come hand in hand with isolation. It seems to be a strange fact of life, that when people become more wealthy they tend to become more isolated.

Properties of the rich and famous proudly market themselves as having self-contained gyms and private cinemas; with all of these amenities protected behind a gate or some other form of security.

I am unsure as to whether this is something that these people choose, or whether it is an expected path that individuals are expected to follow once they have reached a certain socioeconomic status. Either way, rather than being something to aspire towards; I find this embrace of isolation very peculiar.

One of my favorite shows is “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, the show's comedy comes from human interaction, from the peculiar social norms within society that can create joy, pain, anguish, anger, frustration, happiness, envy; the full spectrum of human emotions. Without the protagonist interacting with the general public and living within shared spaces (gyms, cinemas, theatre etc) the show would have no premise and the laughter would stop.

This is the price you pay for social isolation, and it is the reason why famous musicians and writers tend to struggle to follow up their initial breakout album, or book, with anything as impressive in the years that follow. With success comes isolation and comfort, a status quo through which it is hard to find the type of experience that was the catalyst for your success in the first place.

It is the reason why some of the most prolific and lauded artists and writers of all time were only truly appreciated after their death. From Van Gogh to Nietzsche; these individuals were not able to enjoy the fruits of their labor during their lives, and so their work was not dumbed down by the effects of success and the inevitable reduction in human interaction and experience that wealth creates. There is, in fact, nothing more damaging for an artist than success; it is an outcome through which their creative libido is permanently dampened and quashed; a slow erosion of the person they once were and the qualities that initially made them special in the first place.

Perhaps the best example of this can be seen in the frankly ridiculous sight of Bono busking in the streets of Dublin over Christmas, a man who once wrote and performed hugely popular anthems that were soaked in political and social awareness; reduced to being so unaware of how bad the optics look, of a multi-millionaire who deliberately avoids paying tax, despite his enormous wealth, asking those less fortunate than himself, but who do pay tax, to give to charity in a stunt that is frankly all about him and his own ego rather than anybody else.

If wealth provides you with choice; it is fascinating how many wealthy people choose to live isolated and sanitized lives. And unsurprising how unbearable they become.

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